Update: According to a report in the Washington Post, a federal judge has blocked the online distribution of Defense Distributed’s blueprints for 3D printable guns. A lawyer for the company said the ruling violates the First Amendment.
Gun control advocates, state governments, and the distributor of plans for 3D-printable guns are taking aim at each other, filing dueling lawsuits over whether the company should continue to publish their blueprints online. The plans went live on Friday, according to the Huffington Post, and have already been downloaded about 4,500 times.
In July, the State Department granted Defense Distributed, a Texas non-profit, permission to publish their plans online. But state governments are scrambling for an emergency stay, saying the guns—which are invisible to background checks and untraceable by law enforcement—are a threat to public safety.
According to this report in the New York Times, Attorneys General from Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania joined the District of Columbia’s lawsuit. Additionally, 21 state attorneys general sent a letter to attorney general Jeff Sessions and the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, on Monday, calling the decision “deeply dangerous.” Wilson fired back, suing the state of New Jersey and the city of Los Angeles.
Defense Distributed’s founder, Cody Wilson, made headlines five years ago when he created the world’s first 3-D printed gun. He posted his blueprints online shortly thereafter, but then got a letter from the State Department demanding he take them down or face prosecution for violating federal export controls. He sued the government, and two months ago the Justice Department offered him and his co-defendants a settlement, surrendering to their argument that preventing the posting violates not only their right to bear arms but also free speech. This deep dive in Wired details Wilson’s history, philosophy and the tech behind his mission.
Now, state governments are appealing that decision, according to this report in the New York Times. Attorneys General from Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania joined the District of Columbia’s lawsuit. Additionally, 21 state attorneys general sent a letter to attorney general Jeff Sessions and the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, on Monday, calling the decision “deeply dangerous.” Wilson fired back, suing the state of New Jersey and the city of Los Angeles.
According to the Wired report, Defense Distributed is now focusing on the manufacture and marketing of its gun fabricator, the Ghost Gunner. This case study by the magazine showed that the machine reliably produced the lower receiver needed to build a gun, with an all-in cost of $2,272. That’s more than a single mass-produced AR-15, which costs between $800 and about $1,700.
Above: The Ghost Gunner at work as shown in Defense Distributed’s product video.
3D printed plastic weapons have been around for some time and were featured in the 1993 John Malkovich feature “In the Line of Fire. But they are less reliable, potentially hazardous to the shooter and costlier. And while the firearms are largely plastic, they require some metal parts (ie: bullets or barrel), making them difficult to sneak through metal detectors and other weapons detections systems.
However they acquired their firearms, all gun owners must get the proper permits for possessing or carrying a firearm. Penalties for illegal gun possession can include fines of up to $10,000 and 5 years in prison.
That may not stop a new generation of people from trying to make their own guns. According to Huffington Post, Defense Distributed’s most popular blueprint so far is the Liberator, an almost entirely plastic single shot .380 caliber handgun.